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Lord, Lord?

Posted by James Keller on 12/22/17 @ 10:24 PM

Matthew 7:21 (ESV)

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

These words of Jesus come near the end of His Sermon on the Mount.  If you remember, He starts out His Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes (Blessed are the poor...).  He begins by talking about those who are blessed by God.  Here near the end, He gives warnings.  This warning is perhaps the most frightening.  How do we know if Jesus will truly know us?  How do we know if we are crying out to Him, “Lord, Lord” in such a way that He will recognize us? 

Jesus gives us the answer in the second half of this verse: the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  This begs the questions, “What is the Father’s will?”

John 6:39 (ESV)

39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Believe in Jesus.  That is the will of the Father.  We find that faith in Jesus is the way to heaven.  This is found all throughout the Bible.  But how do we know if we have faith?  That is what Jesus is talking about in the Sermon on the Mount.  He is telling us how our faith should shape our lives.  Our faith is not separated from how we live.  Our faith impacts our lives in such a way that others should see it.  How should they see our faith? 

Matthew 7:12 (ESV)

12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

We call this the Golden Rule.  But the only way to truly live out the Golden Rule is to live by faith in Jesus.  Our faith in Jesus will cause us to live differently.  We will stop living for ourselves and start living for others. The good news is that we don’t make these changes on our own.  The Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that gives us faith, also begins to make the changes in our lives.  This is what Jesus is talking about in Matthew 7:17 (ESV): 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 

James, the brother of Jesus, talks about this in his letter. James 2:17-18 (ESV)) 

17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 

Faith in Jesus is more than just knowledge; it is a lifestyle.  The Holy Spirit is the One who helps us to live out our faith in our daily lives.  How are you doing living out your faith?

 Christ’s slave,

 Pastor jim

 

Faithful and Reliable

Posted by James Keller on 12/15/17 @ 7:53 PM

1 John 1:9 (GW)
9 God is faithful and reliable. If we confess our sins, he forgives them and cleanses us from everything we've done wrong.

Admitting we have done wrong is hard.  Our natural tendency is to try to blame someone else.  That is what Adam did. Genesis 3:12 (GW) 12 The man answered, “That woman, the one you gave me, gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” God saw through Adam’s blame game, and He sees through yours and mine.

What God wants is for us to admit or confess our sins.  We are not to be proud of the fact we have sinned, but we are to stand in humble sorrow over our sin.  True confession of sin is humbling.  We admit that we were in the wrong.  We admit that we are guilty.  We admit that we deserve punishment. We place ourselves into the hands of the people we have done wrong.  We are now at their mercy.  That is the scary part.  They have the right to carry out justice upon us.  No one likes to be punished.

This is where Satan comes in.  He lied to Adam and Eve.  He still lies today.  He looks for an opening.  He whispers lies in your ears.  What are those lies?  “You can’t be forgiven.  You have used up all of God’s grace.”  Or “You don’t need to be forgiven for that. God will let it slide.”  Just as Satan’s first lie to Adam and Eve in the garden led to their being separated from God and their eventual death, listening to these lies will also lead to your further separation from God and your death.

That is where 1 John 1:9 comes in.  If we confess our sins, if we admit we have wronged God, if we humble ourselves before God and admit that He has every right to punish us, what will God do?  God will prove His faithfulness and His reliability!  God has promised that when we confess our sins, He will forgive them, not once, not twice, but every time.  Which sins does He promise to forgive?  All of them!  There is not one sin that God won’t forgive if we confess it.  Do you hear that, Satan?  God’s grace is just that, grace!  His grace is big enough to take care of all our sins!  God’s grace doesn’t run out.  Instead, God’s grace runs to!  His grace runs to the sinner who confesses his sins.  His grace runs to the person who cries over his/her sin.  His grace is big enough, deep enough, wide enough, and long enough to cover every sin.  There is no sin that God’s grace can’t take care of!

The next time you sin (which could be right after you read this), don’t be afraid to climb onto your Father’s lap, bury your head in His chest, and confess your sin.  He will forgive you!  He will hug and kiss you!  He will hold you!  He will NOT throw you off His lap!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

Good Works Prepared for You

Posted by James Keller on 12/06/17 @ 11:45 AM

Ephesians 2:10 (GW)
10 God has made us what we are. He has created us in Christ Jesus to live lives filled with good works that he has prepared for us to do.

When I was a preschool director in California, I also oversaw the after-school care program.  During the summer it meant that all the school age children were with us all day.  I was blessed one summer by having a retired high school shop teacher from our church volunteer to teach the school age children one hour a week.  He prepared individual packets of craft materials for the students.  One week they worked on birdhouses.  Each student received a packet of the pieces necessary to build a birdhouse.  He had pre-cut everything.  He had pre-drilled everything.  He had just the right number of nails for each house. He supervised their building of these houses.  If students didn’t pay attention and started to put random pieces together, he would walk over and gently correct them. If someone was unsure what to do next, he patiently talked the child through it.  If they still couldn’t do it, he wrapped his hands around theirs and helped them hold the tools the right way, or he helped them put the pieces together.    At the end of the hour, everyone had a birdhouse.  No two were the same, but all the students were proud of their birdhouses.  Why?  Because he told them what a good job they did.

Our memory verse says that God does the same thing for us today.  God has prepared good works for us to do.  He has already made all the preparations for us.  If we are unsure what or how we should do these good works, He speaks to us through His Word, or through another person, or even through the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  If we still are confused, He gently wraps His nail-scarred hands around ours and patiently walks us through it.  He doesn’t give us a good work that we can’t complete.  He has prepared everything so that we will hear Him say, “Good job!  I’m proud of you!”

What are these good works?  Some may be very big things, but most are found in our everyday living.  Taking care of our families.  Raising our kids.  Loving our spouse.  Helping those in need.  Showing kindness to strangers.  Working hard at our jobs.  Supporting each other in our church. No two of us will do it exactly the same.  But God is with us every step of the way.  He has already made sure we have all that we need to complete these good works.  If we start without His direction, He lovingly corrects us.  If we get stuck, we can go to Him in prayer.  If we mess up, He is there to help us to make it right. 

What is the good work that God has assigned to you today?

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

Active Faith

Posted by James Keller on 11/29/17 @ 4:13 PM

James 2:17 (GW)
17 In the same way, faith by itself is dead if it doesn't cause you to do any good things.

There is a story told about a high wire walker.  He stretched out his wires high up between two buildings.  A crowd gathered, and he began to walk back and forth across the wire.  He blindfolded himself and easily walked back and forth.  Taking a rest, he said to the crowd, “How many of you believe that I can walk back and forth across this wire blindfolded while carrying someone on my shoulders?”  The crowd with one voice shouted back that they believed he could.  Looking intently at the crowd he asked, “Who will climb onto my shoulders?”

It is one thing to say that you believe something.  It is another thing to put your beliefs into action.  Followers of Jesus are to do just that, follow.  Faith in Jesus is more than just head knowledge.  Faith in Jesus leads to action.  You will need to get out of the boat (Matthew 14:29).

God’s love for us caused Him to act.  Our faith in Christ should cause us to act as well.  It is easy to say that you have faith when you are sitting comfortably in the boat.  But you prove your faith by giving up your comfort so that someone else can be comfortable. 

We have a saying in America: “Put your money where your mouth is.”  Our memory verse tells us to “put action to our faith!”  Let us not just be head nodders when it comes to our faith, but let us live out our faith so others can see it and experience it!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

Dead, Yet Alive?

Posted by James Keller on 11/28/17 @ 10:47 PM

Romans 8:10 (ESV) 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

You might be wondering how you can be both dead and alive at the same time.  Our verse starts with our bodies.  Because of sin, our bodies are dead.  When God told Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, He told him, “The day you eat of it you will die.”  When Adam and Eve ate that fruit, they didn’t die right away.  But death began working in them.  They became spiritually dead, and their bodies began to age; illness and injury happened.  Finally, they died.

We are all living under the curse of sin.  Our bodies age.  We get sick.  We have injuries.  We die.  We are walking dead people.  But the second part of the verse talks about our spirits.  The Holy Spirit changes spiritually dead people into spiritually alive people.

I spend a lot of time in the ER with people.  It is not uncommon for a person to be in extreme pain yet also joyful as they speak of their Savior.  I have heard the most beautiful testimonies to Jesus while a person is crying in pain.  Their tears of pain mix with their tears of joy as they recount how much Jesus means to them.  They are experiencing the curse of sin in their bodies, but at the same time, they are acknowledging the life that the Holy Spirit gives to their spirits.  It is at moments like this that Romans 8:10 is a reality taking place in front of my eyes.

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

3 Benefits of Being Clothed with Christ

Posted by James Keller on 11/15/17 @ 7:44 PM

Galatians 3:27 (GW)
27 Clearly, all of you who were baptized in Christ's name have clothed yourselves with Christ. 

Baptism has many benefits.  I have written about some of these in the past.  But here in Galatians 3:27, we are told that when we are baptized, we are clothed with Christ.  What are the benefits of being clothed with Christ?

1)      Christ’s righteousness is now our righteousness.  On our own, we are sinful and unworthy to stand in God’s presence.  But clothed in Christ, we can stand in God’s presence.  When we are clothed in Christ, God sees Christ when He looks at us.  When Jesus told the story about the wedding feast in Matthew 22:1-14, we hear about a man who tried to get into the feast not wearing the clothes provided (Matthew 22:11).  Here in Galatians 3:27 we find out what those wedding clothes are – they are Jesus!  Being clothed in Jesus grants us access to heaven.

2)    We now represent Jesus wherever we go. I will admit that I do enjoy watching little children dress up in superhero costumes.  Watching them pretend to be those superheroes is both cute and funny.  But when we are clothed with Christ, it is neither cute nor funny.  We are not just to pretend to be Jesus; we are to in fact represent Jesus.  When the followers of Jesus were first called Christians, it was meant to be bad thing.  But the word Christian means “little Christ.”  When you put on Jesus at your baptism, you are to live as a little Christ to the world.  Too often we followers of Jesus forget this.  We think that we can put on Jesus and put off Jesus at will.  I put on Jesus when I am going to church.  I take off Jesus when I am going to a party.  Galatians 3:27 doesn’t say anything about taking off Jesus.  It actually says that when we were baptized, we put on Jesus, never to take Jesus off.  This is our source of comfort.  When we sin, we find comfort in the fact that we still have Jesus on.  This is not because of who we are but because of what God has done for us through baptism.  We are clothed with Christ.  If we remember this throughout the day, how different will we live our lives? If Jesus wouldn’t do something, look at something, say something or listen to something, then we who represent Jesus shouldn’t either. Representing Jesus changes how we see activities. Jesus doesn’t hang out with naughty people to be one of them.  He hangs out with naughty people to point them to the God who loves them.  We don’t condone or approve what people do; instead, we point them to the God who loves them enough to help them stop doing bad things.

3)     Being clothed with Christ prepares for Spiritual Warfare. The devil hates God and everything that God loves.  If you are clothed with Christ, you become an object of the devil’s hate.  The devil hates you because you represent Christ, whom he hates.  The good news is that you are already suited up for the battle.  Paul writes about our spiritual armor in Ephesians 6:10-20.  If you carefully read each individual part of the armor, you will see that they all point to Christ.  The Belt of Truth – Jesus is the way the Truth and life (John 14:6). Breastplate of Righteousness – Jesus is our righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Shoes of Peace – Jesus is the one who brings peace between us and God.  Isaiah calls Jesus the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).  Shield of Faith – Jesus is the source and goal of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).  Helmet of Salvation – Jesus is our Savior (Acts 4:12).  Sword of the Spirit (Word of God) – Jesus is the Word made flesh (John 1:14).  At our baptism we are clothed with our battle armor.  This armor has already defeated our enemy, Satan.  This armor is Jesus! 

What other benefits do you see in being clothed with Christ?

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

Helpless

Posted by James Keller on 11/06/17 @ 11:51 AM

6 Look at it this way: At the right time, while we were still helpless, Christ died for ungodly people Romans 5:6 (GW).

My dad lives in a nursing home.  Parkinson’s disease has turned his body against him.  He is physically weak and shaky.  A series of TIAs have also weakened his mind.  His short-term memory is all but gone.  He gets confused.  He wants to do things, but he is unable.  Even the simplest of tasks that he was able to quickly do in the past are now all-day labors. He often bemoans his helplessness. 

One of the things I do when I visit my dad (which I try do almost every day) is to read the Bible to him.  As I read, we talk about the Scriptures.  Most of the time I explain things, and he nods affirmatively.  Sometimes he interjects with an observation or a question.

Recently we were reading 2 Corinthians 3.  I was explaining to Dad about why Moses had to wear a veil over his face (2 Corinthians 3:13).  We were talking about how without the Holy Spirit, it is impossible for us to understand the Bible.  Dad asked, “Is that why I can’t understand the Bible?  Because I don’t have the Holy Spirit?”  He was concerned that he would not make it to heaven.  His dementia has removed the filter between his brain and his mouth.  He says things that are not appropriate.  He was afraid that he had lost the Holy Spirit. 

My dad felt helpless.  That is where Romans 5:6 comes in.  Our God is a God who helps the helpless.  He is a God who provides for those who cannot provide for themselves.  God knew my Dad’s helpless state (and mine, as well as yours, too), and out of His great and undeserved love for us, He did something about it.  1 John 4:10 (GW)10 This is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the payment for our sins.

Not only does God take care of our sins, but He also takes care of our unbelief. Ephesians 2:8 (GW) 8 God saved you through faith as an act of kindness. You had nothing to do with it. Being saved is a gift from God.  Faith is a gift from God.  God who saves the helpless also gives faith to the helpless. 

As I talked with my dad, I asked him what he believed about Jesus.  He confessed Jesus as his Lord and Savior from sin.  I reminded my dad that God helps the helpless.  God opens heaven to those who don’t deserve it.  Our ability to get to heaven is not dependent on us and what we have done or will do.  Our salvation is based on Jesus, what He has done and continues to do for us.  My dad looked off into the distance and sighed, “That’s good!  That’s real good!”  Yes, it is good for helpless sinners like us!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

No More Trouble?

Posted by James Keller on 10/30/17 @ 11:01 PM

John 16:33 (ESV) 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

There are those who think that once they come to faith in Jesus, all their problems will go away.  But that is not what Jesus has promised.  In John 16:33 He, in fact, says that we will have tribulations or trouble.  Jesus does not promise to take these away.

When the children of Israel were wandering around in the wilderness, they complained against God.  God sent poisonous serpents to bite them.  The children of Israel asked Moses to ask God to take away the serpents.  God didn’t take away the serpents.  Instead, He had Moses make a serpent out of bronze and set it up on a pole.  Anyone who was bit by a serpent could look at the bronze serpent and they would live (Numbers 21:4-9). 

Jesus once compared Himself to the bronze serpent on the pole (John 3:14).  If God provided a way for the Children of Israel to be saved without removing the serpents, why should Jesus remove the tribulations today?  God gave the Children of Israel a way to be saved from the poison of the snakes without removing the pain of the bite.  He was providing for them without taking them out of the world.  They needed a reminder that that they needed God.  Jesus promises to give us a peace, not to take away the tribulations.  Jesus gives us a peace that is beyond our understanding (Philippians 4:7).  Amid our tribulations, Jesus gives us a peace.  He doesn’t remove the trouble, but he gives us a peace that helps us to endure the tribulation. 

A big part of that peace that we have is the knowledge that Jesus has overcome the world.  Whatever tribulation you are going through, there is peace and comfort in knowing that Jesus has conquered it.  Jesus is greater than any tribulation you are going through or will go through.  He has overcome it.  Because He has overcome it, He will help you get through it!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

God of the Living

Posted by James Keller on 10/16/17 @ 10:12 PM

Matthew 22:32 (GW)
32  ‘I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.' He's not the God of the dead but of the living.”

Over the last few days I have attended a viewing for a person who died, participated in an internment (placing of the remains in the ground), and spoken with someone who has lost a parent a few months back.  In these occasions, the grieving families have struggled with whether to refer to the persons in the past tense or the present tense.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:32 that those who have died with faith in Christ are not in the past.  They are living today!  Think of it this way, if your sibling moved to a far-away country, how would you refer to your brother or sister? Would you refer to him or her in the past tense or in the present tense?  You would refer to your brother or sister in the present tense.  Though you do not see him or her now, you are looking forward to the time when you will be reunited. 

That is how followers of Jesus are to view those who have gone before us.  They have moved to a different country.  They have left this earth of pain and suffering.  They haven’t ceased to exist.  They have just changed their residence.  One day we will have a grand reunion.  Why? 

Because God is not the God of the dead but of the living!  Jesus has proven that He is too strong for death.  That first Easter morning, death was defeated.  Just as Jesus’ grave was left empty so too will ours be.  But as we wait for that glorious day, God is still the God of the living, not just those alive here on earth right now, but of all who live by faith in Christ. 

So, don’t talk about your loved ones in the past.  Talk about them in the present with the hope of reunion coming!

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

A Call to Action

Posted by James Keller on 10/09/17 @ 2:16 PM

James 1:22 (GW)
22  Do what God's word says. Don't merely listen to it, or you will fool yourselves.

How much listening do we do on any given day?  We go through the day with the radio on in the background (or the TV).  It provides background noise but are we really listening to it?  At the end of the day can we really say what we have heard?

This is what James is talking about herein James 1:22. But instead of talking about the radio or music, he is talking about God’s Word.  Do you read the Bible just to mark off a box on your daily “to do” list?  Do you sit politely in church during the sermon but your mind is miles away?  Then you are guilty of James 1:22. Reading the Bible or listening to the sermon doesn’t do you any good unless you put it into practice. 

As one theologian once said, “A said faith is a dead faith.”  But a living faith is one that not only listens but obeys.  The next time you are reading your Bible (which I hope is every day) try asking yourself these questions:

1)      What did this mean for those who were there?

2)      Why did God include this in His Word?

3)      What does God want me to do about this today?

The next time you are sitting in church listening to a sermon, instead of thinking, I wish so and so was her to hear this.”  You should be asking yourself these questions:

1)      How does this sermon apply to me?

2)      What should I do about it?

3)      How can I share what I have learned today with others this week?

By asking yourself these questions and seriously answering them you are well on your way from merely listening to the word of God to doing what God says. 

Christ’s slave,

Pastor jim

P.S.  E-mail me if you would like a PDF of tips that can improve your Bible study.

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